At the same time, I was also aware of how "backward" our industrial town was compared to the big cities of Bombay and Delhi, which I had never been to at that time. I felt like I was an urchin from the slums whenever we visited a wealthy relative in Madras--they had a huge refrigerator where the yogurt--curd, as we called it--was stored, and it was wonderfully cold to touch when served. And then there was the fabled America.
Later, in graduate school, I would come to understand these are examples of "spatial inequality." Highly unequal spaces. Despite all my personal experiences with spatial inequality, I wonder if things are getting even more lopsided.
As anyone looking to buy a new car these days knows, a number of technologies already cede certain tasks to the vehicle. These include windshield wipers that turn on when they sense rain, brakes that engage automatically when the car ahead is too close, blind-spot detectors, drift warnings that alert the driver when the car has strayed into another lane, cruise control that maintains a set distance from other vehicles, and the ability of the car to parallel park itself. Tesla cars go further. In “autopilot” mode they are able to steer, change lanes, and maintain proper speed, all without human intervention. YouTube is full of videos of Tesla “drivers” reading, playing games, writing, and jumping into the back seat as their cars carry on with the mundane tasks of driving.How about the following as a contrast, as an example of spatial inequality:
Readers in rich countries may well consider electric lighting mundane. But in northern Rwanda, where fewer than one in ten homes has access to electricity, simple solar systems that do not rely on the grid—and use a battery to store electricity for use at night—are a leap into modernity. A service once available only to rich Africans in big towns or cities is now available for just a few dollars a week.While we in the advanced countries are celebrating the arrival of driverless cars, and beer trucks that drive themselves, merely getting a bulb to light up a home is a big deal in "a continent in which two of every three people have no access to power."
Take a moment to think about these contrasts. Especially about ""a continent in which two of every three people have no access to power." And think about how these are merely two of the examples of life in contrast.
Of course, grandmother's village now has roads. But, electricity 24x7 is yet to be the case. It has been years since I last went there, but it is doubtful whether all the houses have indoor plumbing. There has been progress, yes, but the spatial contrasts seem much more than before.
The more the years go by, the more difficult it has become for me to understand the world.